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The Rough Guide to New Zealand
Fodor's Exploring New Zealand
Rotorua and Waitomo Caves, New Zealand.
(May 2001)

Volcanic activity gave birth to the islands of New Zealand only a few million years ago. This fiery beginning is evidenced today by landscapes of volcanic cones and geothermal springs. This photo tour explores a beautiful stretch to the south of Auckland - Rotorua to Waitomo.

Rotorua, a few hours drive from Auckland or Wellington, is small lakeside town surrounded by geothermal activity. Visitors enjoy the lakes, the hot springs, the spas, the geysers, and Maori culture. The stench of sulphur is all around as gases bubble from hot mud pools. Health and beauty treatments abound!

Waitomo, west of Rotorua, is tiny farming town, now providing services to the thousands who visit each year to see the amazing Waitomo caves. Various cave systems stretch for hundreds of kilometers below ground, offering all manner of caving experiences.

Many choose to glide peacefully along the grand labyrinths by boat, admiring the glow worms that dot the roof like stars. Others choose 'tubing', and are whisked along a fast flowing river in a truck inner tube! Those trying to overcome a fear of heights, such as your authors, are attracted by a 100 meter abseil into "The Lost World"...
 
Click for larger image! Hot mineral bath - Steam and bubbles rise from sparkling pools. The tinted water is so clear, it can be hard to see. Rotorua is surrounded by geothermal parks, many offering spas and health treatments. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Tha' she blows! - A violent jet of steaming water sprays towards the heavens. Some geysers erupt but once a day. This one shoots up continuously. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Hot mineral bath

Steam and bubbles rise from sparkling pools. The tinted water is so clear, it can be hard to see. Rotorua is surrounded by geothermal parks, many offering spas and health treatments.

Tha' she blows!

A violent jet of steaming water sprays towards the heavens. Some geysers erupt but once a day. This one shoots up continuously.

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Click for larger image! Green Lake (Rotokakahi) - The deep green lake is sacred to the Maori people and so remains an undisturbed jewel. Its sister lake, not a few meters away, is a shiny turquoise blue. New Zealand's endemic flora was used in the 'Walking with dinosaurs' TV series. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! The Buried Village - A small settlement was smothered when Mount Tarawera erupted spectacularly in 1886. Today the village has been excavated as a museum and this pretty trout stream runs along its edge. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Green Lake (Rotokakahi)

The deep green lake is sacred to the Maori people and so remains an undisturbed jewel. Its sister lake, not a few meters away, is a shiny turquoise blue. New Zealand's endemic flora was used in the 'Walking with dinosaurs' TV series.

The Buried Village

A small settlement was smothered when Mount Tarawera erupted spectacularly in 1886. Today the village has been excavated as a museum and this pretty trout stream runs along its edge.

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Click for larger image! Cascade - The village was lost to volcanic ash but a beautiful waterfall has formed at its base. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Waitomo - The picturesque countryside is used for raising livestock and attracting tourists. The underground cave systems lure thousands of visitors every year. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Cascade

The village was lost to volcanic ash but a beautiful waterfall has formed at its base.

Waitomo

The picturesque countryside is used for raising livestock and attracting tourists. The underground cave systems lure thousands of visitors every year.

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Click for larger image! Entrance to The Lost World - A black hole appears between the trees. A set of ropes can be seen disappearing into the hole. They go a long, long way down... <p>(The hole drops almost 100 meters (300 feet) down). Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Path of no return - After abseiling to the cave's bottom, there is no obvious means of return. The large opening now appears as nothing more than a skylight to an enormous underground world. The only path forward is to leave the sunlight behind and enter the darkness of the cave. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Entrance to The Lost World

A black hole appears between the trees. A set of ropes can be seen disappearing into the hole. They go a long, long way down...

(The hole drops almost 100 meters (300 feet) down).

Path of no return

After abseiling to the cave's bottom, there is no obvious means of return. The large opening now appears as nothing more than a skylight to an enormous underground world. The only path forward is to leave the sunlight behind and enter the darkness of the cave.

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Click for larger image! Cave dwellers - A small river gurgles through the cave. Visitors are invited to tickle the freshwater eels that live here. Careful - their jaws have been known to remove fingers! Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Cold steel ladder - Entering the cave by rope is scary. Leaving by ladder is terrifying!<p>Cold steel numbs your grip in silent stillness. Darkness envelops your vision in all directions. The circle of light from your head-lamp becomes your entire world as you ascend one slow, careful, step at a time. Keywords: rotorua,new zealand,auckland,waitomo,cave,cavern,caving,speleology,speleologists,nature,natural,wild,thermal,waterfall,rainbow,hot spring,spring,hot,geezer
(Click to view)
Cave dwellers

A small river gurgles through the cave. Visitors are invited to tickle the freshwater eels that live here. Careful - their jaws have been known to remove fingers!

Cold steel ladder

Entering the cave by rope is scary. Leaving by ladder is terrifying!

Cold steel numbs your grip in silent stillness. Darkness envelops your vision in all directions. The circle of light from your head-lamp becomes your entire world as you ascend one slow, careful, step at a time.

Send to a friend! Send to a friend!
Information

Location:
From Auckland, Rotorua and Waitomo are a few hours drive south, past Hamilton. Rotorua is south-east of Hamilton, Waitomo south-west.

Getting there:
Several operators offer single and multi-day tours from Auckland and Wellington.

The area is well sign-posted and easy to find by car.

Rotorua offers all levels of accommodation. Waitomo has budget and medium-priced lodging.

Also of interest:
Aside from the natural beauty featured in this article, visitors can also experience Maori culture. The Polynesian Maori settled New Zealand before the Europeans and are renowned for their decorative art and customs. Shows, museums, and displays are all on offer in Rotorua. If traveling independently, make Rotorua's tourist information center your first stop.

Thrill seekers may want to try 'The Luge' in Rotorua. A cable car takes you to the top of a hill. A plastic tray with wheels takes you down at high-speed. It's great fun, that's all we're saying!

Links:

Fodor's Exploring New Zealand

The Rough Guide to New Zealand

Lonely Planet New Zealand

Tourism Rotorua
Comprehensive listing of Rotorua's attractions.

Waitomo Adventures Ltd.
Cave tours with friendly guides.

Buried Village
Museum and partially restored village chronicling 1886 eruption.

Skyline Skyrides
The Luge and the restaurant with the best view in Rotorua.

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Cuba - Rotorua, New Zealand - Christ Church, Dublin - Monument Valley, Arizona - Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Staffa, Scotland - Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - Costa Rica - Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico - Fiesta, Mexico City - Making Lacquer, Olinalá, Mexico - Talavera Ceramics, Puebla, Mexico - Mata Ortiz Pottery, Mexico - Lebanon
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